Metformin for Weight Loss: How Does It Work?

woman losing weight with metformin

If you’re here, it’s likely that you’ve heard of metformin. It’s been an important part of diabetes management for many of the 38.4 million Americans dealing with type 2 diabetes

Thanks to a common side effect of metformin use, it may now be able to help those struggling with obesity—something that impacts over 1 billion people worldwide

With metformin weight loss success stories growing in numbers and studies showing promising results, many doctors are now prescribing metformin for weight loss

What is Metformin?

So, what exactly is Metformin? Well, we know it’s a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes—as well as prediabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and colon cancer off-label. But, what does that mean?

Metformin isn’t a newcomer to the healthcare scene. It was originally discovered in the 1920s and brought into use in the late 1950s before being FDA-approved for the treatment of diabetes in 1994

This biguanide derivative helps to control blood glucose level by restoring the body’s response to insulin. By restoring the body’s response to insulin, metformin acts as a stabilizer, ensuring that the glucose levels dance to the right rhythm. 

This mechanism is particularly crucial in managing conditions like type 2 diabetes, where the body’s natural insulin response may be defective. Thanks to some of its other mechanisms, many have made the connection between metformin and weight loss

How Does Metformin Regulate Blood Sugar?

What makes metformin such a standout player in diabetes management? It does more than simply restore insulin sensitivity. It’s a multifaceted controller of blood sugar levels.

Taming the Liver

It can actually tame the liver’s glucose production, curbing the amount of blood sugar the liver produces. By doing so, it significantly reduces the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream. This targeted approach helps manage blood sugar levels and mitigates complications associated with excessive glucose.

Sensitivity in the Gut

Metformin doesn’t stop at the liver; it extends its influence to peripheral tissues like those found in the stomach and intestines. Metformin isn’t called an “insulin sensitizer” for nothing. It can actually enhance the body’s sensitivity making the body more responsive to insulin and allowing for more efficient glucose processing in these vital areas.

Activating AMPK

One of Metformin’s secret weapons is its activation of adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK), a powerhouse enzyme. This activation inhibits key enzymes involved in n two crucial processes: gluconeogenesis (the creation of glucose) and glycogen synthesis in the liver.

Translation? Metformin puts the brakes on the liver’s glucose production, reducing the rate of sugar release into the bloodstream. 

Boosting Glucose Disposal

Metformin doesn’t just stop at controlling glucose production; it also boosts peripheral glucose disposal, particularly into skeletal muscles. The best part? It achieves these effects without typically causing hypoglycemia. 

Metformin Weight Loss Mechanism

Metformin is just another in a long line of diabetes medications that doubles as a potential weight loss drug. Ozempic/Wegovy (semaglutide) and Mounjaro (tirzepatide) are the most common, but metformin is rising in popularity. 

Can metformin cause weight loss? It can!

The better question is “how does metformin work for weight loss?” The metformin mechanism of action for weight loss plays off its mechanism of action of diabetes regulation. 

Regulating Blood Sugar and Insulin Sensitivity

There is a direct link between blood sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity, and weight. By taming the erratic blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin sensitivity, Metformin creates a favorable environment for weight loss. 

Stabilizing blood sugar prevents excess glucose from converting into fat, while improved insulin sensitivity promotes more efficient energy usage and storage. Ultimately these aid in shedding those extra pounds.

Suppressing Appetite 

Metformin does more than just make metabolic adjustments. Research suggests that it may play a role in curbing appetite and reducing food intake. This study actually attributes metformin weight loss to an impact on appetite regulation. 

It actually helps to modulate the hypothalamic appetite-regulatory centers which control hunger and satiety. This appetite suppression leads to a decreased caloric intake. 

Calorie Restriction

Metformin itself doesn’t restrict calories, but users will often eat less thanks to the appetite and satiety regulation. Since calorie restriction is a key player in the weight loss game, metformin weight loss is common. 

Research Studies on Metformin and Weight Loss

The world of pharmaceuticals is a fascinating and ever-changing landscape. There are many available medications that have found unexpected capabilities beyond their original purpose—whether those uses have been FDA-approved or are simply being prescribed off-label.  

Sildenafil was initially designed for erectile dysfunction as Viagra but was also approved as Revatio for pulmonary arterial hypertension. Semaglutide is another notable example, earning FDA approval as Ozempic for diabetes management and, more recently, as Wegovy for weight loss.

If a medication shows promise for the treatment of another ailment, more research will be conducted. 

Metformin has historically been a diabetes medication, but there has been a recent exploration of metformin and its weight loss capabilities. 

As with any emerging field of study, information on metformin’s impact on weight loss is still under scrutiny.

Metformin Weight Loss Results

Initial findings indicate that metformin demonstrates modest weight loss results, with most users shedding around 5.5 pounds.

Only about one-third of users see a loss of 5% of their body weight, which is significantly less than some of the other diabetes management turned weight loss medications. 

Metformin for weight loss shows better long-term results. When users take metformin over an extended period, typically 6-15 years, they show continued weight management. 

Research on the connection between metformin and weight loss is still in its early stages. We may see these findings change over time as more information is gathered. 

Does Metformin Work For Weight Loss?

The answer is: it can. While research suggests modest weight loss results, the effectiveness of metformin for weight loss varies from person to person. 

Everyone’s different. So, what works for some may not work for you. Metformin may be the answer to your weight loss goals, or maybe there’s another option that suits your goals better.

The only way to find out is to ask. Heally can connect you with a specialist who can help you make the right choice for you. Get started today!


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